March 9 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Kara Fox, and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 3:03 AM ET, Wed March 10, 2021
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4:50 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

McConnell criticizes Covid-19 relief bill, calling it "purely partisan"

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/FILE
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/FILE

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill the narrowly passed the Senate Saturday as “very liberal and purely partisan,” saying it was only able to get through because Democrats “put lock-step unity ahead of substance” when they defeated almost every GOP amendment to the bill.

“We are hearing reporting that this giveaway will simply wipe out the budget deficit of New York state and eliminate a big part of the deficit in San Francisco, courtesy of the taxpayers in Kentucky and middle America,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Already we hear heat the administration is saying they want some of these sweeping new welfare policies to become permanent, like a no-strings-attached benefit that disregards all the pro-work lessons of bipartisan welfare reform.”

McConnell also said that “Democrats inherited a turning tide” because the “vaccine trends and economic trends were in place” before this bill voted on and before President Biden was sworn in.

The timeline: The US House is expected to vote tomorrow on the bill, according to a Democratic leadership aide. The House Rules Committee will take up the rule today, and the House will approve the rule governing floor debate tonight, the aide said.

The nearly $2 trillion package includes up to $1,400 stimulus checks to many Americans, and billions of dollars for states and municipalities, schools, small businesses and vaccine distribution.

Roughly 90% of American households will be eligible to receive stimulus checks, according to an estimate from the Penn Wharton Budget Model.

4:29 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

North Carolina vaccinates more than 1 million people

From CNN’s Juliana Battaglia

Tyson Foods team members receive Covid-19 vaccines from health officials at the Wilkesboro, North Carolina. facility on Wednesday, February 3.
Tyson Foods team members receive Covid-19 vaccines from health officials at the Wilkesboro, North Carolina. facility on Wednesday, February 3. Melissa Melvin/AP/FILE

North Carolina has fully vaccinated more than 1.1 million people, Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"This puts us even closer to a time when we can hug our loved ones and gather without fear of severe illness," he said. "I'm grateful for the vaccine providers across our state for working hard to get shots off shelves and into arms, your hard work is saving lives."

Part of the state's vaccination efforts have gone towards fair and equitable distribution.

"In the last four weeks over 20% of our first doses have been administered to Black North Carolinians," Cooper said.

The state will continue to focus their efforts on equity, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We will continue to use every lever we have to ensure historically marginalized populations can easily access a Covid-19 vaccine," Cohen said.

The state's positivity rate has stayed around 5%, which is on track for the state, according to Cooper. However, the governor cautioned about "celebrating too early."

"Let's continue wearing our masks and being responsible so that one day soon we can turn the corner on this pandemic," he said.

4:17 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine boosters may be needed six months to year later, Novavax official says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Biotechnology firm Novavax is developing a booster shot to its coronavirus vaccine, and company officials anticipate that vaccinated people might need boosters every six months or annually to stay protected against Covid-19. Similar to others, Novavax's Covid-19 vaccine is administered as two doses given three weeks apart.

After the second dose, “we’re seeing that at six months, there's a pretty big decline in antibodies and I think all the vaccine makers are going to see that," Dr. Gregory Glenn, president of research and development for Novavax, told CNN on Tuesday.

“But it's our view that somewhere between six months and one year, we’re going to need to boost everybody to protect them,” Glenn said. “I think governments are gearing up for that kind of thinking – but we're still collecting the information that will guide that. This is a new virus, these are new vaccines, and we just don't have enough information.”

Novavax has initiated a booster shot study to gather that information.

"We have actually started a trial where some of the people who got our vaccine last summer, at six months later we're giving them a boost," Glenn said. "We're going to see how good that looks in terms of immune responses – and it can either be one dose, given once, or maybe we kind of repeat the same thing we did before where we give them a three-week interval."

4:07 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Cases of Covid-19 in children decline for the seventh consecutive week 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Cases of Covid-19 in children have declined for the seventh consecutive week, with at least 63,562 cases being reported last week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP notes this is a “much smaller drop” than the previous six weeks. 

Children make up about 13.2% of all Covid cases, and at least 3,231,836 children have tested positive since the onset of the pandemic. 

In the 11 states that reported testing, children have made up between 6% and 18.5% of total state tests, with 5.3% to 30.7% of children who were tested testing positive. 

Since states began reporting, between 1.3% and 3% of all hospitalizations were children, with between 0.1% and 2.2% of child Covid-19 cases leading to hospitalization. This is based on data from 23 states and New York City. 

Overall, children made up zero to 0.19% of all Covid-19 deaths. Ten states reported no child deaths. Under 0.05% of all child Covid-19 cases resulted in death, AAP says. Mortality was reported from 43 states, New York City and Guam. 

4:23 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Novavax on track to have US and Mexico Phase 3 trial data in April, company says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Medical lab scientists, Glenda Daza, left, and Emily Degli-Angeli, work on samples collected in the Novavax Phase 3 Covid-19 clinical vaccine trial at the UW Medicine Retrovirology Lab at Harborview Medical Center on February 12, in Seattle, Washington.
Medical lab scientists, Glenda Daza, left, and Emily Degli-Angeli, work on samples collected in the Novavax Phase 3 Covid-19 clinical vaccine trial at the UW Medicine Retrovirology Lab at Harborview Medical Center on February 12, in Seattle, Washington. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Biotechnology company Novavax still expects to see results from its PREVENT-19 trial, a Phase 3 study of its Covid-19 vaccine in the United States and Mexico, sometime in April. The trial has enrolled 30,000 volunteers across more than 100 locations.

“Everybody's enrolled and now we're watching for cases,” Dr. Gregory Glenn, president of research and development for Novavax, told CNN on Tuesday.

“I think sometime in the April timeframe we'll have finished that trial. So, we'll have three pivotal trials testing our vaccine — that's extremely important for evidence that your vaccine is safe and can work,” Glenn said.

In January, the American biotech firm announced that its Covid-19 vaccine was found to have an overall efficacy of 89.3% in a Phase 3 clinical trial conducted in the United Kingdom, where it was found to have 95.6% efficacy against the original coronavirus strain and 85.6% against the variant strain first identified in the UK.

The coronavirus vaccine was not among the first authorized in the United States because the company faced some challenges in building the staff needed to develop such a new vaccine, Glenn said.

"We were a small company," Glenn said. 

In January of last year, around the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Maryland-based company recruited more staff to work on developing its Covid-19 vaccine in response to the health crisis, Glenn said.

“We had to recruit people, and our funding was kind of low,” Glenn said. “In addition to all the challenges of developing the vaccine, which is really complicated, we had the challenge to build a company.”

Glenn added that Novavax has “reached a really good point now” with building the company and developing the vaccine. The company still expects to apply for emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine sometime in the second quarter of this year.

4:00 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

No unexpected outcomes from Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy so far, CDC vaccine safety lead says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Current data suggests that women who are pregnant should feel comfortable receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the head of Covid-19 vaccine safety for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The data we have so far are reassuring. We do not see any signs of a safety problem in pregnant women — both with respect to the pregnant women individually and with respect to the developing fetus,” Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, vaccine safety lead with the Covid-19 Response Team at the CDC, said. “No unexpected pregnancy or infant outcomes have been observed related to Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy.”

A health official also addressed the vaccine's impact on breast milk.

“There are no concerns that the vaccine would be in the breast milk or be dangerous to a breastfeeding infant,” Dr. Kathleen Dooling, a co-lead on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices with the CDC, said.

Shimabukuro said that despite the small amount of clinical data on Covid-19 vaccinations and pregnancy, pregnant people should consider the risks of contracting Covid-19 as well.

 “There is evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk for complications from Covid infection and or increased risk for more severe disease. There is also some evidence that Covid infection may increase the risk of certain pregnancy birth outcomes,” he said. “So, I think in order to protect both the mother and the developing baby, I think it’s important that the women get vaccinated.”

3:31 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

CDC director to US business leaders: “Now is certainly not the time to relax restrictions” 

From CNN’s Christopher Rios

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Action Alliance

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged business leaders to continue key public health measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. She spoke Tuesday during the Health Action Alliance National Business Summit. 

“Now is certainly not the time to relax restrictions on these measures. March and April are going to be pivotal times,” Walensky said. “Where the pandemic goes from here is really dependent on our collective behaviors and continued commitment to follow the public health measures we know work to stop the spread of the virus: wearing well-fitted masks, avoiding traveling in crowds, social distancing and washing hands.”

She encouraged business to provide employees with face masks and also address vaccine hesitancy in the workplace. 

“We are encouraged by the remarkable progress to date, but we continue to face challenges, including constrained vaccines supply, ongoing vaccine hesitancy and increasing myths and disinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines,” she said. 

Walensky called on businesses to address misinformation by highlighting the unprecedented scale of the vaccine trials, which included over 100,000 participants, and the intensive vaccine safety monitoring program.  

“The government alone, the CDC alone, cannot achieve the monumental task of stopping this pandemic,” she said. “The monumental task of vaccinating 300 million Americans. We need partners like you to share in the collective actions to restore health and economic prosperity.”
3:09 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

ICUs in half of Brazil's states are at more than 90% occupancy, according to regional health authorities

From CNN's Marcia Reverdosa and Shasta Darlington in Sao Paulo

A health worker cares for a COVID-19 patient at an Intensive Care Unit of the Ronaldo Gazolla Public Municipal Hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 5, a year after the first coronavirus case was registered in the city.
A health worker cares for a COVID-19 patient at an Intensive Care Unit of the Ronaldo Gazolla Public Municipal Hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 5, a year after the first coronavirus case was registered in the city. Andre Coelho/AFP/Getty Images

The latest figures on intensive care unit capacity in Brazil, where the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse amid a surging second wave, are grim.

Here is a breakdown of the figures:

  • Out of Brazil’s 26 states plus the Federal District, 22 states now have ICU occupancy rates at over 80%. Of those, 13 are near or at the breaking point with ICU occupancy over 90%, according to data from each state’s health authorities.
  • Rio Grande do Sul is the most critical as of Tuesday, with ICU capacity at 103%, which means patients are lining up for ICU beds.
  • Although the state of Rio de Janeiro is at 72.7% capacity, its capital has already reached 93% of its total occupancy.

According to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a health ministry institution, the accelerated occupancy rates at ICUs seen in the last month are the result of the lack of restrictive measures imposed by the federal and state governments, the spread of the new P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, and the slow pace of vaccination. Brazil has vaccinated only 4% of its population, according to the health ministry.

2:50 p.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Vermont will allow people age 16 and older with high risk conditions to get Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Will Brown

Vermont will allow anyone 16 years old or older with high risk conditions to schedule a vaccine appointment beginning this Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott announced Tuesday morning.

Vermont originally planned to open vaccinations to this population next week, but moved the timeline forward due to the state’s supply of vaccine and ability to accommodate more appointments.

“The goal here is to get all Vermonters vaccinated as quickly as possible, so anything we can do to push that along is going to be a benefit,” said Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health.

Vermont expanded vaccinations to include teachers, school staff, and child care workers yesterday.